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Custom Colecovision/Intellivision/Atari 5200 Controller?

  • Hi everyone!

    I'm just getting into Raspberry Pi hacking and RetroPie but I'm learning a lot pretty quickly and I'm enjoying coming with with new ideas for projects.

    I've been looking at playing some old games for systems like the Colecovision and Intellivision and Atari 5200, but I'm finding the fact that modern controllers are so different from the original controllers a bit jarring. Yes I can map number pad buttons in different ways or I can play with a keyboard next to me, but I thought it'd be more fun to play with something a bit more like the original controllers. I've looked into options for hooking up original controllers (and buying original controllers) and that's probably the smart/authentic way to go, but it occurs to me that it might be fun to try to build my own controller. It wouldn't have to be oriented exactly like the original controllers, but it'd be cool to have a joystick with two buttons and a number pad that could be mapped to these systems, (and it'd have the advantage of being able to be mapped individually to all three rather than having to have three separate original controllers to deal with).

    I see there are plenty of kits and instructions for building things like Arcade sticks and such which makes me think this should be possible, but I'm not sure if there's an clear way to make something like that but with a number pad as well that could be mapped to these different consoles. I'm just not quite sure where to start with integrating a number (well phone I guess) pad into a project like this. Most of the "kits" i see for arcade sticks seem to assume a max of like 8 buttons (and maybe like select/start and such).

    Has anyone else tried something like this? Any ideas how to go about doing something like this?

  • So far, I've tracked down this phone pad that seems like it has good potential to be useful. Would this be the sort of thing that could be hooked up to a Gamepadblock? It looks like despite having 12 keys, it's connector only uses 7 wires so it seems like there's potential there to hook something like it up along with a few buttons and a joystick the way an arcade stick is hooked up, but I'm still pretty new to all of this so I'm not sure precisely how that all works, and I assume there would need to be some work on the Gamepadblock to interpret the signals correctly.

  • You nailed the concern on this perfectly by describing the fact the Colecovision, Intellivision and Atari 5200 (CX52) have very similar controllers. What I really wish is that the three communities would get together and do a Kickstarter or GoFundMe to develop an improved, common controller that can be used with all three systems. I don't know what other consoles used a numeric keypad as part of the controller. It's fairly unique compared to all modern controllers made in the last 35 years. I think when NES came out in 1985, those type controllers started to disappear from production. By thinking in terms of a common controller for all three systems, it seems a lot more feasible to do than just going it alone for just one system.

    My idea would be to make the controller flexible to serve all three consoles. I'm an Intellivision fan, so the numeric touchscreen could be flipped upside down (software config) for Colecovision and Atari 5200 fans whose controllers had the numeric keypad on the bottom (the three buttons above the CX52 joystick would have to be combined onto the 15-button touchscreen - a compromise). The four side buttons could be near the middle of the controller (another compromise). Both ends of the controller would have ports for connection to the homebrew console or PC with different cable adapters. Configuration software would be created to program the controller to immediately act as a duplicate of one of the three console's controllers. The directional disc itself could be configurable with attachments to closely represent each console.

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